Last Wednesday, we looked at the most extreme home runs of the 2015 postseason. There was Daniel Murphy‘s off-the-shoetops homer, one of many ridiculous Kyle Schwarber blasts, and Jose Bautista’s now-infamous bat flip that caused such an uproar. And, while it was great to relive all of those home runs from the playoffs, a simple constraint to that piece was this: there were only 91 home runs hit during the postseason. We’re searching for extreme home runs, and that wasn’t the largest sample size from which to draw. Fun, absolutely, but there is more fun when more homers are involved.
And so we find ourselves here, staring at a sample of every home run hit during the regular season: all 4,907 of them. There are a lot of strange occurrences in that many separate events, and so I’ve pulled out some of the finest moments involving home runs during the entire 2015 regular season. As always, data has been mined from Baseball Savant and HitTrackerOnline. Let’s get to it!
Hardest-Hit Home Run: Josh Donaldson, 4/23/15
Josh Donaldson might win the American League MVP award this year. However, regardless of whether he wins or not, he beat out his biggest competitor in that award (Mike Trout) by almost a full mph in this category, producing an exit velocity of 120.5 mph on a belt-high changeup from Chris Tillman. Whether that fact will give Donaldson any solace if he loses the MVP award cannot be known, as we do not have an accurate knowledge of whether he reads these digital pages, or puts any stock into made-up awards related to home run compilation articles.
Also of note: the sound that emits from this particular contact of ball on bat. I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe it, and the best I can come up with is that something shattered. That something could’ve been the bat, or the ball, or might simply be the sound of a small fusion reaction.
Softest-Hit and Shortest Home Run: Caleb Joseph, 4/17/15
I’m fairly certain it’s going to take another similar home run at Fenway Park to unseat this home run from these two categories. Last year, the shortest homer was a David Ortiz shot to this exact location, and next year I’m betting that might be the case, too. This particular homer is unique, as it is both the shortest and softest-hit, a combination that can only arise when a right-handed hitter is woefully late on an outside fastball while playing at Fenway Park.
To illustrate that point, the ball traveled a wind-assisted 317 feet after an exit velocity of 88.7 mph, leading HitTrackerOnline to state, confidently, that such a ball could be a home run in exactly zero parks.
Longest Home Run: Giancarlo Stanton, 6/5 & 6/23/15
Carlos Martinez throws very hard. Among qualified starters, he owned the fourth-highest average fastball velocity this season. Yet this, a 484-foot home run off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton, was not off a fastball. This was on an 86 mph slider that Martinez hung in the wrong place, and Stanton still hit it almost 500 feet. This is the terrifying power of Stanton, and leads us to wonder things such as: what if he hit an Aroldis Chapman fastball on the screws?
Two weeks after the homer against Martinez, Stanton hit another 484-foot shot, tying himself in this category. Again, it came on a hanging slider, this time at 88 mph from Eddie Butler:
Lowest Apex: Carlos Santana & Colby Rasmus, 8/21 & 9/20/15
(skip to the :30 second mark to get right to the homer)
Apologies for being forced to watch a 3-1 count almost result in a pop-out at the beginning of the video. With these lowest apex homers, it’s best to make sure no fans were harmed in the making of these videos by the equivalent of a 350-foot screaming line drive. With an apex of just 43 feet, this Carlos Santana shot is almost as low as one can possibly hit a home run, only bested by last year’s Nelson Cruz homer that travelled just 41 feet above the ground.
Tying Mr. Santana in this category is playoff superstar Colby Rasmus, whose first of two home runs on the day during a late September game heralded the beginning of a ridiculous weeks-long run of success:
Highest Apex: Hanley Ramirez, 6/21/15
With an apex of 180 feet, this was the highest home run hit since at least 2006. HitTrackerOnline only goes back to 2006, so it could be the highest since well before that; the only one on record that even comes within five feet is Carlos Lee’s homer that reached 177 feet in May of ’06. We often see the term “moonshot” used to describe home runs, but all other moonshots quiver in fear at this. This is a crazy, crazy home run.
Slowest Pitch: Mike Trout, 7/20/15
I did a couple of these posts during the year, and I noticed a few trends while doing them. The main one: Steven Wright gives up a lot of homers that are featured in these articles. Wright had the previous slowest pitch hit for a home run — a hanging 66 mph curveball that Josh Hamilton crushed out of Arlington — and he also held the biggest speed differential between pitch and hit during our last round.
He decided to top his previous slow pitch record in July, when he hung a 60.4 mph curve (PITCHf/x calls it a curve, but it could be a knuckleball) to one of the best players in baseball. Three innings earlier, Wright gave up the second-slowest pitch for a homer of the year, a 63.5 mph curve to Albert Pujols. Should Wright stop throwing this pitch? For his purposes, maybe. For the purposes of these articles? No, no he should not.
Fastest Pitch: Preston Tucker, 8/15/15
Sometimes it’s fun to imagine what it must take to be able to hit a 99.9 mph fastball for a game-tying home run, as Preston Tucker did in this instance off of then-Tigers closer Bruce Rondon. In a realistic world, I would venture to say it goes something like this:
- Be born wildly, preternaturally talented
- Train for entire life in one highly-specific discipline
- See ball
- Hit ball
We applaud you, Preston Tucker, for executing this very simple five-point plan toward claiming the fastest pitch hit for a home run.
Highest Pitch, RHH: Evan Gattis, 7/8/15
This category was never going to be won by anyone other than Evan Gattis. At four feet, five inches off of the ground, it was just a couple inches over the runner-up, but really, Gattis was always taking it. We know this is just what he does. This is, after all, the same guy who doubled off a pitch thrown at chin level:
The only thing poor Trevor Bauer could do afterward was mouth “wow.”
Highest Pitch, LHH: Brian McCann, 5/27/15
Coming in a close overall second to Gattis’ ridiculous homer, McCann’s shot came on a pitch that was a mere four feet, three inches off of the ground. While I said before that Steven Wright might be a pitcher who is particularly well-suited to the aim of this article — that is, to witness and enjoy a multitude of home runs — World Series champion Chris Young might actually be the most well-suited, as this is the second category he appears in, along with Hanley’s moonshot.
Lowest Pitch, RHH: Adrain Beltre, 4/9/15
At one foot, one inch off the ground, this home run from Adrian Beltre is another wholly unsurprising one in the realm of extreme home runs. Hit in the first couple weeks of the season, this made the previous two articles, so I will include my original description below, which is far better than anything I could come up with again:
“Is it Adrian Beltre? Check. Does he go down on one knee? Check. Does someone try to touch his head in the dugout afterward and almost get punched? Check.”
Lowest Pitch, LHH: Bryce Harper, 5/19/15
While this is an article about extreme home runs, there are examples here that are even more extreme than others. Take for instance this home run from almost certain NL MVP Bryce Harper, which was on a pitch that was just under a foot off the ground when it crossed home plate. There were obviously no other home runs that low this season; there weren’t any last year, either. To simply loft a pitch that crosses the plate less than a foot above the ground is special; to hit it for a home run is ridiculous.
Most Inside Pitch, RHH: Daniel Castro, 10/2/15
Welcome to the major leagues, Daniel Castro! Here, have a cameo in a weird home runs article! With these homers, we’re always looking to see if the hitter is standing really far from home plate, like Ryan Zimmerman. That makes them technically inside but not in-context inside. Regardless, it does not appear that Castro lines up in the box at an absurd distance from the plate, and at 13 inches from the inside corner, this is a really impressive homer from a September call-up.
Most Inside Pitch, LHH: Melky Cabrera, 8/16/15
I realize that Steven Wright and Chris Young have been trumpeted as the real heroes of this article, the ones that make everything possible. However, this particular home run is above is quite spooky, as it was given up by Dan Haren — who also gave up the most inside pitch for a home run last year on an identical 85 mph cutter. This particular version was just over seven inches off the inside corner of the plate. Baseball is weird. And awesome.
Most Outside Pitch, RHH: Avisail Garcia, 6/5/15
Ah, Avisail Garcia. Mini Miggy. Sometimes the potential flashes through, like when he hits a pitch over ten inches off the outside of the plate for an opposite field home run. Then, as quickly as it came, it recedes, leaving -1.1 WAR in its place.
Most Outside Pitch, LHH: Chris Davis, 9/20/15
If hitting opposite field home runs in the major leagues were as easy as Chris Davis made it look, everyone would do it. At over eight inches off the plate, this home run can’t truly compare to Anthony Rizzo’s homer from last year (which was a foot off the plate), but what’s most impressive is the ease with which Davis hits oppo home runs. It’s as if a hitting coach approached him one day and simply said, “Chris, just imagine you’re lying on a beach and you really, really don’t care about anything” and then Davis went out and hit 47 bombs without really breaking a sweat.
Longest HR Hit by a Pitcher: Noah Syndergaard, 5/27/15
Oh sure, Noah Syndergaard’s first career home run. He’s a pitcher, and he hit a ball 430 feet to left center. There were 17 home runs hit by pitchers this season, and none of them came within 15 feet of this one. Special shoutout to Madison Bumgarner, however, for hitting five over the course of a season, including the runner-up, a 415-foot blast at PNC Park.
Wackiest Inside the Park Home Run
This was the hardest category, as it was a complete judgment call. After watching every single inside the park home run this season, I chose this particular one for a few reasons. First, inside the park homers are usually triples that turn into homers because of a defensive issue or a strange carom. This, however, wasn’t a defensive issue so much as it was a defensive spontaneous combustion; with his approach to the ball, Domonic Brown turned this into either an out or an inside the park home run. There was no middle ground.
Second, Ruben Tejada wasn’t even running to first base, as he thought this was going to be caught, so he theoretically could’ve taken the equivalent of five bases here. This was the most inside of inside the park home runs, as Tejada — if he were running hard the whole way — could’ve stepped on home plate and probably made it safely to first base again. I see no reason why the rules shouldn’t be changed to allow that runner to then be safe at first, counting the home run he just hit.
And so, after this multitude of home run joys, we are left with this final frame: an encapsulation of this article, life, and another season of baseball. The ball continuing to roll in play while we, the fielder, topple over the wall, the batter circling the bases unimpeded. Dazed, we stumble to our feet, wondering where the time went, knowing only one deep truth: there’s always next time.
Owen Watson writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @ohwatson.